Strategy:General FAQs

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This section contains answers to all the generic queries one might have before even entering into the preparation cycle. The answers have been curated by selected candidates themselves based on general consensus and their experiences. If you are not able to find your question answered on this page, please feel free to post your query on the Discussion page of this section and it will be answered by somebody as soon as possible.

What is the Civil Services Examination really? How many stages does it entail?

Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a nationwide competitive examination in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to various Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), and Indian Police Service (IPS).

Also simply referred to as the UPSC examination, it is conducted in three phases -

  • Stage I: Preliminary Examination - Two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I & GS Paper II also known as Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT) .
  • Stage II: Mains Examination - 9 Subjective-type papers (2 qualifying papers, rest counted for merit)
    • 4 General Studies Papers
    • 2 Optional Subject Papers
    • 1 Essay Paper
    • 2 Language Papers
  • Stage III: Personality Test (interview)

Beyond IAS & IPS, what are other avenues in Civil Services in the government?

Following are the services which one gets on qualifying the Civil Service Examination beyond popularly associated service like the IAS, IPS:

All India Services

  • Indian Administrative Service (IAS)
  • Indian Police Service (IPS)

Central Services (Group A)

  • Indian Foreign Service (IFS)
  • Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA&AS)
  • Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS)
  • Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS)
  • Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS)
  • Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES)
  • Indian Information Service (IIS)
  • Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS)
  • Indian Postal Service (IPoS)
  • Indian P&T Accounts and Finance Service (IP&TAFS)
  • Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)
  • Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)
  • Indian Railway Protection Force Service (IRPFS)
  • Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)
  • Indian Revenue Service (IRS-IT)
  • Indian Revenue Service (IRS-C&CE)
  • Indian Trade Service (ITS)

Group B Services

  • Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services (AFHCS)
  • Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS)
  • Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police Service (DANIPS)
  • Pondicherry Civil Service (PCS)
  • Pondicherry Police Service (PPS)

What is the marks distribution of merit across different stages of examination?

Civil Services New Mains Format
Paper Subject Marks
Paper A (One of the Indian languages listed below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (Qualifying) 300
Paper B English (Qualifying) 300
Paper I Essay 250
Paper II General Studies I (Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society) 250
Paper III General Studies II (Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations) 250
Paper IV General Studies III (Technology, economic development, bio-diversity, environment, security and disaster management) 250
Paper V General Studies IV (ethics, integrity and aptitude) 250
Papers VI, VII Two papers on one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects (250 marks for each paper) 500
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Total Marks 2025

How to prepare for current affairs?

Daily newspaper reading of either Indian Express or The Hindu is recommended. This can be supplemented by daily current affairs explanation from any coaching's online portal. Monthly compilation of current affairs of any coaching should be referred.

Is reading one newspaper sufficient?

Yes. Read any one credible national newspaper for current affairs. The Hindu and The Indian Express are the two most followed newspaper by candidates of CSE. Read either of them.

Is it possible to crack the exam without joining a coaching institute?

Yes it is fully possible. You can study books on your own and there are plenty of online free resources available for current affairs and guidance. CSE Wiki is one such resource.

How important is a peer group in the course of preparation?

Peer group is important if it creates a healthy environment for studies. Peers help you as a guide and a critic to ensure that you move forward. However, some people find it easy to study alone. In the end it is a personal preference, but be sure to be in touch with your CSE aspirant peers to keep updated and to get any required help.

Is it possible to clear exam by just studying for 1 month like some YouTube video claims?

No, Its not.

UPSC CSE is a examination with humongous syllabus. You need both time and perseverance to finish studying the whole syllabus and to turn that data into knowledge and further into wisdom. If you come across such a video its either misinformation or clickbait.

Is it necessary to leave job for CSE preparation? Should one leave job and prepare full time?

Leaving a well settled, good paying job for an arduous uncertain path ahead can never be easy. Yes, internal motivation can help here, but the uncertainty ahead can give you chills. This article contains Mahak Swami's (AIR 383) journey, ifs and buts while leaving the job and the final result.

Should I shutdown all my social media apps?

Utility of social media impacts everyone differently. If you have a decent support system online or you are a social person then you may continue using it throughout your preparation, however if you are someone who is easily distracted and needs discipline in preparation then you might want to shut it all down or use it selectively. This Article contains journey of Anshuman Yadav (AIR 372), who has written a detailed article about this social media conundrum.

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